Notes from the CONFERENCE CALL regarding the National League 20/21

C.L.R.
11 min readMay 29, 2021

Eight months ago I gave my predictions on how the National League would end up this season.

This is what I settled on.

1. Notts County
2. Stockport County
3. Boreham Wood
4. Yeovil Town
5. Wrexham
6. Sutton United
7. Woking
8. Halifax Town
9. Solihull Moors
10. Eastleigh
11. Bromley
12. Barnet
13. Dagenham & Redbridge
14. Torquay United
15. Hartlepool United
16. Wealdstone
17. Altrincham
18. Aldershot Town
19. Dover Athletic
20. Chesterfield
21. Maidenhead United
22. King’s Lynn Town
23. Weymouth

And this is how it actually ended up.

1. Sutton United
2. Torquay United
3. Stockport County
4. Hartlepool
5. Notts County
6. Chesterfield
7. Bromley
8. Wrexham
9. Eastleigh
10. Halifax
11. Solihull Moors
12. Dagenham & Redbridge
13. Maidenhead
14. Boreham Wood
15. Aldershot
16. Yeovil
17. Altrincham
18. Weymouth
19. Wealdstone
20. Woking
21. King’s Lynn
22. Barnet
23. Dover

Scoring’s real easy. The aim is to get as close to 0 as possible, starting from 0, with any difference in positions coming off my score.
For example, my beginning score is 0, I had Dover finishing 19th, they finished 23rd (kinda), so that’s minus 4 off my score.

I think the worst score I can get is like -242, so I wanna be away from there.

Let’s see how I did then, eh?

ALDERSHOT TOWN

Predicted: 18th / Actual: 15th
A familiar story for Aldershot, who couldn’t maintain early season form and relied on a few sparkles to guide ’em through. Mo Bettamer, Josh Rees, and Harry Paniyotou were three of the brightest sparks, but they’re the kind of lights people follow. There are still others coming through, but The Shots need to start hanging onto established talent if they wanna push for the EFL.

Score: -3

ALTRINCHAM

Predicted: 17th / Actual: 17th
Smart signings saw them buck the trend of the promoted sides struggling, being the only side to bring in a comparable wealth of established National League talent. They mixed well with the exisiting squad and the result was what they would have been hoping for in a tricky season. It’s difficult to get foundations going in this division, but Alntrincham seem to at least have a blueprint.

Score: 0

BARNET

Predicted: 12th / Actual: 22nd
Oh, Christ on the cross. It just didn’t click for so long. Departures battered them more than could have been predicted — Beadle couldn’t manage it, Flowers couldn’t manage it, and then it was as if they just hit the reset button by bringing in Simon Bassey. He’s done the best job of composing Barnet and despite only being in the job for less than two months at time of writing, he’s accrued more than half their points in the league.
There were scary signs for Barnet, but with Bassey, there’s more hope. They’ve stared relegation in the face, they’ve held its hand, and they’ve no desire to do it again. But it’s so easy to slip.

Score: -10

BOREHAM WOOD

Predicted: 3rd / Actual: 14th
It should have been a better season, simple as. This will go down as a disappointing season for Garrard and his boys. They had the experience, the strength, and the poise going in, and then results abandoned them. Their composure slipped, they couldn’t hold onto results, and then they couldn’t achieve results. Inconsistent form was all the rage, and they didn’t seem to have a Plan B.
There are still bright times ahead for this club, and they could easily go again next season with the same players and have a good chance — but it’ll be their mental game that’ll be vital to tighten over the Summer.

Score: -11

BROMLEY

Predicted: 11th / Actual: 7th
A mid-season sacking seemed to doom Bromley, but as it often does, it galvanised them. The new manager bounce saw them over the line and into the play-offs on the final day, and they’ll go in as the unknown quantity, comparatively.
They might have conceded the goals, but they got the goals as well, and Michael Cheek has proven to be a striker who can hurt you from a lot of places, plus, they’ve shown they can shut up shop against the big boys — it could be an interesting ride for The Ravens, into the play-offs and beyond.

Score: -4

CHESTERFIELD

Predicted: 20th / Actual: 6th
What a job James Rowe has come in and done. From the bottom of the pile (pretty much) to pushing for promotion and ending in the play-offs. From the frustrating figure Chesterfield have cut in recent seasons to what they became under Rowe, it’s a greater gulf than night and day. They seemed assured, confident, and like actual football players again. Wherever they end up next season, The Spireites will be a team to be feared.

Score: -14

DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE

Predicted: 13th / Actual: 12th
Just came on too late to make it count. It seemed everything started to click with ten or so games to go, when it became sudden death for their results. While not handy for this season, they’ll now see what they’re capable of, and Daryl McMahon won’t take anything less.
Some new personnel may be needed, but The Daggers will go into the Summer optimistic about Season 21/22.

Score: -1

DOVER ATHLETIC

Predicted: 19th / Actual: 23rd
All just… ‘Kinda’ for this one.
Results weren’t forthcoming because they’d had to gut their squad to save money, and then games weren’t forthcoming because financial aid never came.
Dover were one of many sides let down by the governing bodies, and it hit them hard. Their season was ended, their results were expunged, and they’re porbably lucky that they’re not being kicked out for something beyond their control.
At this point, my hope is that we can just see Dover play again next season.

Score: -4

EASTLEIGH

Predicted: 10th / Actual: 9th
I wrote in my prediction that Eastleigh always come close to threatening but never actually do. Like, they threaten to threaten.
Case and point this season. They were hanging about, even going into the final day with a chance at the play-offs, but it wasn’t to be. They picked up results at important times so it seemed like somet was cookin’, but at the end of the day, this was always gonna be the way it ended.

Score: -1

HALIFAX TOWN

Predicted: 8th / Actual: 10th
To consolidate this position is fantastic stuff for The Shaymen, especially considering the turn-around in personnel. This finish can be considered a success even if they thought they should have pushed on.
There was certainly potential, but they rarely, if ever, looked a match for the sides above them. Experienced groundwork will need to be laid on top of their strong foundations for The Wild Boys to press on to the EFL.

Score: -2

HARTLEPOOL UNITED

Predicted: 15th / Actual: 4th
Happy to be wrong on this one. Hartlepool played feckin’ great football and new signings as well as experienced roster members came up big. They had moments of implosion, but contained them in single games, showing a strong mindset to come out the next game and deliver a powerful performance. They look more like the Hartlepool of old now, and even with them settling for the play-off eliminators, I’d call them the favourite. Though they will have to navigate the unpredictabl Bromley first.

Score: -11

KING’S LYNN TOWN

Predicted: 22nd / Actual: 21st
Like, their last kick of the season stopped this one from being right. They kept Barnet on the ‘bottom’ and can reflect on a… Still poor season.
As it was for all the promoted sides, adapting was tricky. King’s Lynn actually looked bright to start off, but would then claim only four points from their last thirteen games, with no wins.
They burned out, and they’re lucky relegation was written off for the division. This could be valuable experience, or it could just be the writing on the wall.

Score: -1

MAIDENHEAD UNITED

Predicted: 21st / Actual: 13th
A pleasant surprise for Maidenhead here, as although early season form couldn’t be kept up, it was at least indicative of what they could do, and what they did do.
They overpowered sides, and though they were inconsistent against smaller sides (and bigger sides), they were always dangerous. They’ll take this season but they’re balancing now; they’ll have to be careful which side they go, and how they do it, ‘cos they can converge easier than one thinks.

Score: -8

NOTTS COUNTY

Predicted: 1st / Actual: 5th
Poor form at a crucial point stopped their automatic promotion dream of becoming reality. At this point, however, I’m sure they don’t care how they return to the EFL. The sacking of Neal Ardley was surprising despite poor results, but Ian Burchnall is an appointment of intent and immense promise. Especially at this level.
A strong end to the season will see them head into the play-offs as favourites, with individuals starting to shine and reputation beginning to tell. But that mental stumbling block will still be there, and they could tumble out of contention as their own worst enemy.

Score: -4

SOLIHULL MOORS

Predicted: 9th / Actual: 11th
It’ll be frustrating for Shan and his lads that they could never seemingly push on into a higher gear and really challenge. Signings took in a promising way, but weren’t telling enough. That was the story of their season really — a lack of conviction. When the going got tough, Solihull got going all too often.
It’s a side that just needs a bit of a square-up, and after what will be seen as a successful season with shortcomings, Shan should be able to deliver just that.

Score: -2

STOCKPORT COUNTY

Predicted: 2nd / Actual: 3rd
The signings shone, as many said they would, and Stockport rode that shine all the way up the table. Composure at telling points is the only thing that stopped them, and everyone else, from pushing on and stopping the eventual champions from being crowned.
Another manager appointed with the future in mind, Simon Rusk has developed a side that doesn’t lose often, and he’s accentuated the many positives the side already had. Promotion’s a minefield, but with this club’s recruitment, it’ll surely be just one more season at this level if they were to fall at the play-off hurdle.

Score: -1

SUTTON UNITED

Predicted: 6th / Actual: 1st
I should have had more faith. It is so tricky to maintain a core at this level — with players being poached along with the crap shoot that recruitment can be, for Sutton to have retained a squad of familiar faces season on season and actually build and develop a proper foundation is close to unheard of.
But here’s the reward.
A team. They know themselves and each other, and now they know what it’s like to be a Football League side.
Good luck next season, we’ll be rooting for ya.

Score: -5

TORQUAY UNITED

Predicted: 14th / Actual: 2nd
Lost a big man, gained a big spirit. At their best, they looked unbeatable, at their worst, they looked pretty tight. Call him old school if ya like, but it only means that Gary Johnson knows what he’s doing at this level and he’s ushered a confidence and assuredness onto his players.
Even with a 2nd place finish, I reckon they’ll be dark horses going into the play-offs. Their cards are close to their chest, and it could be that experience from the manager that pays dividends.
They were unlucky not to go all the way, but shortcomings in defence will have been identified and potentially neutralised for the play-offs.

Score: -12

WEALDSTONE

Predicted: 16th / Actual: 19th
I watched their final game against Woking to see if they would concede three goals. They conceded twice. That means they avoided joining the ‘Shipped 100 Goals’ Club by one goal. At least it would have been something.
It was just that kind of season for Wealdstone. Yeah, promoted sides struggled, but these lot came up with attacking prowess, and they looked to burgeon that. And they did! They just needed to give at least a little attention to their withering defence as well.
It wasn’t even rare to concede 90+ goals this season, such is the divide that’s opening up, and this was a diminished season keep in mind, four fewer games. Wealdstone were soon worked out up top and next season doesn’t look easy for them, but at least they’ll know what to combat.

Score: -3

WEYMOUTH

Predicted: 23rd / Actual: 18th
I had ’em stacking it under Stock, and though it took ’em a while to settle, they soon found their place and focused on bettering those below them, which worked nicely.
Stock will see this as something to build on with minor resources, but he made some shrewd signings this season, so the trust’ll be in him to do it again. If this was a baptism of fire, the first day of school’s gonna be just as hot.

Score: -5

WOKING

Predicted: 7th / Actual: 20th
The feck happened here? Compared to the teams around them, Woking should have had the team to carry forward from their finish last season. Instead… I don’t even know. They were a shadow of the team they were, and while that could have easily ben a fluke, the potential was there.
It was shameful at times from The Cards, and to be amongst those promoted sides will be seen as a failure.
I know these cards aren’t stacked right now, but they fecked what was dealt in their favour.

Score: -13

WREXHAM

Predicted: 5th / Actual: 8th
Big money don’t always mean big success. Not immediately anyways. Perhaps with those bonuses in their minds, they choked on the final day and couldn’t do enough. But don’t let that dilute them, this was a great season for The Red Dragons. There was poise and collection, and a sense of professionalism in their play that they haven’t seen despite higher finishes in this very league. I don’t think I’m gonna be one to jump up and say that they’ll run away with it next season, but they’ll be up there again.

Score: -3

YEOVIL TOWN

Predicted: 4th / Actual: 16th
For fuck’s sake. The amount of double digit scores I’m getting here is troubling.
This has got to be seen as a failure of a season for Yeovil. They had the squad they wanted in place, and the manager, and they stacked it. It should have been a build on last season in tricky circumstances that they might have been able to take if they had just missed out on the play-offs, but to be out of contention with six games to go is weak sauce.
Glovers fans can only hope that this has been a season of consolidation and that next season they burst up, but after this season, they can only hope.

Score: -12

A one-of-a-kind season. Hopefully.

A club expelled. Results expunged. A divide forming.

This is hopefully the last we’ll see of this kind of thing, but hopefully not the football the sides are playing.

Once again, the last few minutes were telling, providing twisting drama with something on the line from the very first whistle of the season, to the very last.

Don’t you ever go changin’ National League. Apart from the money shit, please change that.

As for me, my result was…

-130

Okay, okay, okay… More than halfway bad.
So, for everyone I got within one or two of, there were two that I shat the bed on. Good jumping off point though.
‘Cos I do jump out the bed when I shit in it.

MY BIGGEST WINNERS — Altrincham — 0, Stockport, King’s Lynn, Eastleigh, Dagenham & Redbridge — -1
MY BIGGEST LOSERS — Chesterfield — -14, Woking — -13

There’s always next season. Or there better be. I’ll see you there.

Keep it streets ahead,

C.L.R.

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